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I-Team: A dive into the impact of COVID-19 in Northeast PA


WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have an impact on every aspect of our community. We are still learning just how the pandemic is affecting our lives, in one way or another. A local research group is taking a real-time look at the impact of the pandemic.

A nonprofit research group, The Institute, which is based at Wilkes University, is taking a deep dive into the pandemic’s impact.

You might say that phrase, “knowledge is power,” is the driving force for researchers at The Institute and 12 other universities and colleges across the region, as well as the business community.

It collects and examines data that can be used by all sectors of our community. And for the last year, it’s been looking at COVID-19 and its impact on our region. The business community was a key focus of the research.

“We found that many businesses are actually disrupted in a positive way. They saw increase in sales and revenues as people change how they buy goods where they buy goods and what their priorities are,” said Teri Ooms, executive director at The Institute.

Ooms says home construction and furniture stores saw increases in business, however… “We know that our smaller businesses that are dependent on foot traffic like the small restaurants in our downtown, even locally-owned retail establishments, they’re experiencing a lot of disruption in a very negative way.”

Researchers also found what they describe as inequities among area school districts regarding the impact of COVID-19.

“A lot of the districts were not prepared for online instruction. Not having the technology, not having the teachers experienced in teaching online is a problem,” said Ooms.

And for some districts and families, internet access remains a challenge.

“Then as we look into some of the suburban and more rural areas of our region — big inquiries because broadband isn’t necessarily readily available and people living on that fringe of poverty also can’t afford the addition of broadband.”

Ooms tells the I-Team that local healthcare continues to evolve moving forward in the pandemic and believes COVID-19 has accelerated the implementation of online care.

“We saw a great advantage with the addition and expansions of telehealth services that opened up and kept people in check and that’s still ongoing amid the crisis and I don’t think that’s going to go away post-COVID, because I think there are many applications where people could get their healthcare by telehealth services.”

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